Hooray for Hollywood by Patty Burness

Hollywood is one fun place to visit. If you think it’s the playground for only the rich and famous, forget that notion and hop on the next plane to Southern California. Hollywood Boulevard, from North Highland to North Vine, is the center of the action. And all of the celebrated spots are within easy walking distance. During a recent trip with friends, we did see some stars up close and personal – both in wax and real life.


Madame Tussauds’ Wax Museum is a must. From Barack Obama to cinema icon Audrey Hepburn, pop star Michael Jackson and sports great David Beckham, the stars are there. You can even sit next to Jack Nicholson. It can take up to six months to mould, measure, sculpt, paint, do hair and makeup and otherwise primp each figure from beginning to end. Who ever said it was easy being in wax?
The Walk of Fame is right outside the museum. This year is the 50th anniversary of this remarkable salute to stars past and present representing television, recording, motion pictures, radio and live theater/performance. There are more than 2,400 stars carved in terrazzo marble and edged in bronze along the sidewalks of Hollywood and Vine. And if you’re lucky, there might even be a dedication ceremony during your visit (12-15 recipients are selected annually and they each have five years to complete their ceremony). I saw number 2,389 – saxophonist David Koz – in front of Capitol Records on North Vine. Attending were Johnny Mathis, Barry Manilow, even Jason Alexander.


In all the excitement, we worked up an appetite and headed across the street to The Grill for lunch. This Hollywood institution has a clubby feel, a stunning bar and classic American food. It’s easy to make a meal of appetizers like popcorn shrimp, spinach artichoke dip and seared ahi tuna sashimi. But if it’s something more substantial you’re after there is everything from soup and sandwiches to pasta and steaks.


From the restaurant, it was a quick walk to check into the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. This property plays an integral role in the Academy Awards (held at the Kodak Theater right next door). Winners walk down a long hallway from the theater to the hotel to meet the press. And, the glamorous Governors Ball is held right here.


This contemporary hotel offers spacious rooms, knockout views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood hills, and the Club Lounge with beverage and food service throughout the day. More than 30 artists have pieces hung throughout the hotel in keeping with the mid-50’s décor. The hotel even has an Energy-Star label from the Environmental Protection Agency because of its “green” focus.


Once ensconced at the hotel, we had time to unwind and regroup at Spa Luce. This luxurious haven has everything you need to take your mind off your worries and focus on getting pampered. Try the custom massage with infused oils – it’s guaranteed to soothe your aching body.


Feeling rested and refreshed, it was on to Katsuya for dinner. This hot and happening Asian restaurant combines the phenomenal talent of master sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi with renowned designer Philippe Stark. Sit at the sushi bar or choose lounge type seating – either way, you’re in for a treat. Start with the Katsuya Fresh – an artisanal cocktail with crushed English cucumber, vodka, sake and fresh squeezed lime juice. Then signature starters like Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna and Kiwi Scallops. Save room for an over-the-top Kobe filet with Foie Gras in plum reduction or the sweet and tender Miso Marinated Black Cod. Assorted delectable sushi, sashimi and rolls abound as does an amazing selection of sakes.
The Chocolate Lover Cake (hot cake with vanilla ice cream) is a must: Don’t even think about leaving without trying it. Next morning, we were back on Hollywood Boulevard for breakfast at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Dating back to 1927 and named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, this landmark hotel hosted the first Academy Awards and was home to Marilyn Monroe who lived in a poolside suite. There’s even a mural in the pool by David Hockney. Most of the red carpet shots of the Academy Awards are taken from a corner room. The hotel’s majestic interior boasts marble columns, soft leather chairs and a sense of glamour reminiscent of old Hollywood.


25 Degrees at the Hollywood Roosevelt is right on Hollywood Boulevard. Breakfast features the chance to build your own omelet with lots of choices: cheeses, extras and sides. Or choose a breakfast sandwich, classic steak and eggs or sweet favorites like French toast or waffles. Snag a banquette and you’re set for great people watching.
For one of the coolest experiences, go horseback riding in the Hollywood Hills. Sunset Ranch, located just under the Hollywood sign, offers horses to rent for all levels of riders. There are over 52 miles of trails around nearby Griffith Park.


Don’t miss the opportunity to join one of the live studio audiences that are in full swing for the television shows produced in Hollywood. We chose Jimmy Kimmel Live! The irreverent host pokes fun at his guests from movies, sports, music and, well, you name it. We had a blast watching actor David Duchovny, basketball star Carmelo Anthony and hip hopper Kid Cudi.


After the show, it was a quick walk to Pig `N Whistle, the historic venue for the very first Oscar after-party in 1929. We slid into a cozy booth and enjoyed Mahi mahi tartare, crispy calamari, a blackened chicken sandwich and an albacore tuna melt. A classic ending to a whirlwind tour.


Hooray for Hollywood. It’s glitzy, glamorous and great fun.